Almost nine out of every ten adults with autism are either out of work or underemployed. Now, one man on the spectrum is making a difference for himself and others.
“Elementary, middle school, high school. It was very difficult for me to socialize,” Jairo Arana said.
His own family was at a loss about what to do.
“There was a lot of bullying. There was a lot of making fun of, where he didn’t understand what was going on,” Jairo’s sister, Michelle Arana, said.
Long after his childhood, Jairo finally was diagnosed with a form of autism called Asperger’s syndrome.
“It’s like I find out when I’m 40, it’s like why didn’t I find out before?” Jairo said.
Like most of his peers, Jairo wanted to work and be more independent, but he didn’t know where to start.
“For them to make the most of their potential, they really need assistance from people that understand their unique challenges," said Deborah Chin, manager of the University of Miami-Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (UM-NSU CARD).
CARD supports and trains adults with autism for jobs.
“Taught me how to seek for a job. Taught me how to dress for a job, how to do an interview for a job. Workplace etiquette, behaviors, when it’s time to talk when it’s time not to talk,” said Jairo.
Jairo met Shelly Baer there. She developed Project SALT to advocate for people with disabilities.
“It stands for Self-Advocate Leadership Training,” said Shelly Bear. She's a licensed clinical social worker and Director of Leadership Training Initiatives with University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
Jairo learned how to stand up for himself and all people with disabilities. So, Shelly sent him to Capitol Hill as an advocate.
“I said he’s a leader, he’s a future emerging leader,” Shelly said.
Jairo says the program has changed his life. And now he knows the path he must take.
“What I feel, what I want is people with autism to be given a chance, that’s what I would ask for is give us a chance,” said Jairo.
A chance Jairo didn’t think he’d have, growing up.
For more information try the Center for Autism and Related Disorders